New York, NY- Wallack’s Theatre, “Decorative Art in America”

MAY 11, 1882

Mikhail Ellmann Page Beckson OWSOA
05 11

New York, NY- Wallack’s Theatre
“Decorative Art in America”

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PRIMARY SOURCE


The New York Times May 12, 1882 p.8 col. 2:
MR. WILDE ON DECORATIVE ART| OUTLINE OF HIS OBSERVATIONS IN WALLACK'S THEATER YESTERDAY |

Mr. Oscar Wilde, having returned from a more or less extended tour across the continent, gave New-Yorkers the benefit of his observations on interior decoration, in Wallack's Theatre, yesterday afternoon.

Commentary:
The report noted the following about Wilde:

His hair: "so concealed his ears that it was impossible to discover whether he wore earring ear-rings or not."

His "6 feet or more of humanity showed unmistakable signs of many square meals of beef well digested."

"He has cultivated a habit of leaning back in a sort of Ajax-defying-the-lightning attitude, with his left hand poked far into his left side and the elbow bent.  When he leans back in this position, throws his hair gracefully back from his massive forehead with his right hand, and lets loose one of his massive jokes, he is simply irresistible."

This description is an early example, if not the prototype, of a stereotypically effeminate pose.  The fact it is given unjudgmentally supports Alan Sinfield's contention*: that the perceived  link between effeminacy and homosexuality occurred only after Wilde, and was hitherto simply Dandyesque (and heterosexual).

* The Wilde Century, Sinfield, A., Columbia University Press (1994)

The circus showman P. T. Barnum was in the audience and, noting this, the report ends sarcastically: "The Hon. P. T. Barnum occupied a front seat, but whether he was present with an eye to business is not known."

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